Wednesday, January 16, 2008

N.O. Population Growth Slowing

After a year of steady growth, New Orleans' rate of repopulation nearly flatlined late last year, according to a report released Tuesday.

The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, which determines whether households are occupied by monitoring their mail delivery, found such deliveries in November to be at 70.5 percent of the city's levels before Hurricane Katrina.

In July 2005, the month before the hurricane, there were 198,232 households actively receiving mail, the report said. As of November, there were 139,744 such households.

The city's population grew steadily between August 2006, when about half of households were occupied, and September 2007, when the percentage reached 70 percent. But it barely climbed in the following two months, the report found.

Homelessness and migrant workers attracted by rebuilding jobs make the city's population difficult to determine. But the center's numbers are roughly consistent with those of an urban planning firm that tracks utility hookups to estimate the city's population, which it recently put at about 65 percent of pre-Katrina levels.

Allison Plyer, the data center's deputy director, said the city must act now to lure back residents.

''We'll see how it goes over time,'' Plyer said, ''but I think the city and the state really, now, need to prioritize affordable housing, public transportation and child care. If not, it will be very hard for the volume of workers needed to be able to come and work.''

Just 39 percent of the city's pre-Katrina child care capacity is currently available, according to the report.

A spokesman for Mayor Ray Nagin did not return a call for comment Tuesday.